Top Shot or Not? - Part I

Ruben Villarreal
Top Shot or Not? - Part I
The venerable Penn 6/0, though still great with mono, is not a good candidate to receive Spectra line.

Manufacturing and materials technology have brought much to the sport of fishing. Advances in robotics and computer automation have made it possible to weave high-density polyethylene fibers into a uniform braided fishing line. Today, braided lines such as Power Pro, Sufix Performance Braid, Spider Wire, Line One Jerry Brown, and Momoi Diamond Braid, are becoming increasingly popular. Spectra lines are incredibly strong and much thinner than monofilament, allowing more line to be packed on the spool and the thought of a strong fish emptying your reel and breaking off is becoming a thing of the past. The path was not always smooth though, many tried and true reels just were not up to the task of fighting fish on no-stretch line. Reel frames, gear teeth, spool arbors and drag systems designed for fishing with monofilament line could not take the strain and, so naturally, another generation of tackle was born.

Not all reels make good candidates for use with Spectra line; two-piece spools, flimsy frames and weak drag systems need not apply. Frame materials have evolved from earlier post styles to one-piece graphite and aluminum machined from solid bar stock. Aluminum frames are especially well-suited given their light weight, rigidity, and heat sink attributes. Along with reel frames, not all traditional spool designs are a match for braid. Great pressure is exerted on spools when braided line is wound tightly during installation to eliminate line "dig in" and also during a prolonged fish fight. A two-piece spool can separate and some solid spools can bend and warp. Solid spools of chrome over brass, graphite composite and aluminum are better suited to the task. Traditional drag systems don't cut it either. Reels that fit in one hand and function perfectly with stretchy 50-pound mono are now being filled with no-stretch 100-pound braid and the drag washer diameter and material they are made from must be up to the test. A host of manufacturers have answered these calls and we now have choices like the Daiwa (Salitist lever drag and Sealine lever drag), Accurate ( Boss and ATD series) and Shimano (Torsa, Tallica, and Tiagra series).

Now Spectra line may be the greatest thing since sliced bread in some ways, but not so in others; hence the title, "Top shot or not?" The three main applications of Spectra lines are trolling, bottom fishing and drift fishing. In trolling, anglers quickly tire of holding heavy reels required to accommodate a large quantity of mono line. Therefore, a rush to lighter reels capable of high drag settings came naturally. In blue water bottom fishing, heavy Spectra lines of 150-250 pound strength are helping anglers land very big groupers, amberjack and red snapper like never before. Not only does no-stretch increase overall angling efficiency, greater abrasion resistance pays off big time when playing tug of war over sticky rig pilings, wrecks and rocks. Those days of the big one getting away because you "were only going out 20 miles for kings" but that rare wahoo or sailfish took the bait are fading fast.

Applying a top shot of heavy mono to braid can be the ticket for landing pelagic species such as, ling, kingfish, wahoo, shark, tuna, dorado and billfish that you would have little chance of landing with only monofilament on your reel. My normal MO here is filling a reel one of three ways; 1/2, 3/4, or completely full, depending on the species targeted, the size of the reel, and whether I plan to troll , bottom fishing or drift. A long top shot of heavy mono over a half or three-quarter filling of Spectra is especially applicable to trolling for billfish. There are two reasons for this; wiring a fish on Spectra can mean getting cut to the bone by the extremely thin line, not to mention that the long top shot allows enough stretch to eliminate pulled hooks during the fight. A chunking or setup for fly lining flying fish will see a reel get 3/4 to almost completely fill with Spectra due to sink rate and less drag in the water the flying fish has to pull against. A reel used for heavy bottom fishing is completely filled with Spectra for the zero stretch, greater sensitivity and abrasion resistance.

Joining Spectra to monofilament brings another set of concerns. Everyday knots are not recommended given the slick outer texture of Spectra lines. Next month we will discuss knots for joining solid Spectra to monofilament and also joining hollow core Spectra and mono. Best wishes for great fishing and an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.